Maybe, Probably. Italians and Uncertainty Avoidance.

After almost two weeks in Italy, I thought for sure I had their uncertainty avoidance pegged. It had to be a low, low number – much lower than America’s. However, when I pulled up the Hofstede county comparison tool online, I was surprised to see that the website had America listed with a lower uncertainty avoidance score than Italy. I’ve decided that I disagree.

Now, there is always the possibility that I’ve just surrounded myself with individuals who hate uncertainty back home, but my experience  has been that italian people in general seem to be more relaxed and comfortable with uncertainty than any Americans I know.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that no one around me seemed at all concerned with a late train. At the time, I was talking about a metro train which is a pretty low-stakes situation. Train arrival departure board Centrale F. S. train station, Milan, ItalyHowever, I was surprised to see the same thing at a large train station with cross country trains. Two large boards with “Arrivals” and “Departures” listed train numbers, platforms, and of course – delays. Delays varied from anywhere from 5 minutes to 45
minutes. Many people looking up at these boards had connections to make in other cities, plans or loved ones waiting in their final destinations, and yet you could tell the only people stressing about these times were the foreign tourists. Italians are great at going with the flow. Miss a connection because of delayed train? Just catch the next one. Why worry?

I’ve also decided that Italy’s favorite word is maybe. Ask a question, and chances are the answer will start with “I think maybe…”At first I thought this was a translation filler. Words they use to buffer their English, but my friend and translator confirmed that it happens in Italian too. “‘Maybe’ is probably every Italian’s favorite word” she once said when I asked her about the nonchalant answers we were getting when trying to schedule things early in our trip.

Compared to a lot of people I know back in America, I’m pretty laid back. I usually opt for “winging it” when it comes to making plans, and even my plans tend to be more like outlines, but Italians put me to shame in that category. It is what it is in Italy.


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